Lesson Four: Answered Prayer

Lesson Four: Answered Prayer

Jesus taught us how to pray in the Disciples' Prayer.  He showed us how He prayed in His Gethsemane Prayer.  Throughout the Scriptures we are encouraged to pray.  In the Old Testament we have the Lord's invitation to Jeremiah at a dark hour in his life.  "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."  Jeremiah 33:3.  In the New Testament Jesus spoke in simple terms, when He said, "Until now you have asked nothing in My name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."  John 16:24. 

Throughout the Bible we have many examples of answered prayer.  But there are certain conditions which must be met for us to experience the reality.  God is not Santa Claus.  He isn't like a genie that comes out of a bottle to grant you three wishes.  Under what conditions will the Lord answer our prayers.

 

DEALING WITH SIN

The psalmist wrote, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."  Psalm 66:18.  Prayer is a matter of the heart.  Many regard it as a religious act.  It was a necessary formality in the religious life of the children of Israel in the Old Testament.  They went through all of the motions with one serious problem.  Hypocrisy.  The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying, "These people draw near to Me with their mouths, and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me."  Isaiah 29:13.  Jesus Christ also quoted this verse to the Jews of His day.  See Mark 7:6, 7.

Everyone needs a new heart.  God meets that need through the new birth.  Through this work of regeneration we become new creatures in Christ.  There is a sinner's prayer of repentance that the Lord always hears.  It could be expressed like this:

 

"Lord, I have sinned against You, and am not worthy to be Your child.  But I realize that You love me anyway, and gave Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins.  I welcome Him into my heart.  Thank You for saving me."

 

Be assured that "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."  See Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13.

 

Even those who have experienced "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit," as mentioned in Titus 3:5, are not exempt from regarding iniquity in their hearts.  Christians do commit sin.  See 1 John 1:8, 10.  Feet do get dirty in the Christian walk.  John 13:10.  Sin is a hindrance to answered prayer.

However, there is a way of forgiveness for the believer with dirty feet.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9.  Confession is more than an admission of guilt.  It involves a willingness to turn from our sins and to forsake them.  "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."  Proverbs 28:13.  Our sins must be dealt with honestly if we expect God to answer our prayers.

 

THE WILL OF GOD

The Lord will not grant prayer that is contrary to His will.  God answers all prayer one of three different ways: yes, no, or wait.  When we don't pray according to His will, the answer is definitely no.  The Lord's brother, James, put it this way.  "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."  James 4:3.  In such a situation we can thank God for unanswered prayer.  He cares about us, and wants what is best for His children.

John wrote, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."  1 John 5:14, 15.

What is the will of God?  Do you remember what Jesus taught about petitions in the Disciples' Prayer?  God is interested in meeting our personal needs, providing guidance in our lives, and delivering us from the wiles of the devil.  We should also be wholly committed to the Lord that we "may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  Read Romans 12:1, 2.

Prayer that God answers from heaven begins in heaven.  Answered prayer is an indication that our prayers are in accord with His will.

 

IN JESUS' NAME

As apostles who had traveled with the Lord Jesus for three years, they had undoubtedly spent some time in prayer.  During that time though they had never prayed in the name of Jesus.  This should be obvious from the following verse, where Jesus said, "Until now you have asked nothing in My name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."  John 16:24.  What a wonderful promise!

Many psychologists believe that prayer has a therapeutic value.  They claim that prayer is good because it makes the worshipper feel good.  It works like a placebo, an inert medication used to produce a psychological effect.  To them prayer is like a sugar coated pill in dealing with our maladies.  It doesn't really matter whether or not God actually exists and answers our prayers, that is, according to them.

Christians don't just pray to feel good.  For the praying believer prayer is more than therapeutic.  It is offered in the confidence that God will answer our prayer.  It is answered prayer that produces fullness of joy.

When we pray in Jesus' name, we come to God on the merits of His Son.  We plead His blood and righteousness.  In Hebrews we read, "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest (into the presence of God) by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh...let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith...."  Hebrews 10:19-22.  Through Him we have access to God.  Romans 5:2.

The Lord wants all of His children to bear fruit in their service for Him.  In your service for the Lord you should remember John 15:16.  "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."  God's work done God's way will never lack God's provision, regardless how large or small.  Prayer to the Father in Jesus' name is the channel through which fruit is produced for the glory of God.

A signature is required on legal documents.  In Asia the people use rubber stamps with their names engraved on them.  When we pray in Jesus' name, it's like using His signature or rubber stamp.  His name adds weight and authority in our prayers.  Before you pray in His name you might ask yourself, "Would Jesus endorse what I intend to request at the throne of grace?"  Can you make your petitions to God with the assurance that Jesus would approve of them?

Agreement in prayer is also essential when you pray in Jesus' precious name.  The Lord taught, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."  Matthew 18:19, 20.  We are not heard for our much speaking, and we are not heard for our large numbers.  The smallest Christian gatherings can take heart from these verses.  We have learned that secret, private prayer is rewarded openly.  The Father also answers the united prayers of those who come together in the name of His Son, even when only two or three believers are involved.

Here's another promise that you can count on.  "Most assuredly, I (Jesus) say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you."  John 16:23.

 

THE PRAYER OF FAITH

"Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)."  Hebrews 11:6.  This is especially true in the area of prayer.  How insulting it must be to our heavenly Father when we pray in unbelief!

A Christian man lived at the foot of a mountain.  One day while reading his Bible he came across Matthew 21:18-22.  He was impressed by the words, "If you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done."  That night before he went to bed he prayed that the Lord would remove the mountain.  The next morning when he awoke, he looked out the window and, behold, the mountain was still there.  He shook his head and said to himself, "Just as I thought!"

Much prayer is like that.  How often have you heard a pulpit prayer where the people are gathered together with no expectation of an answer from God?  There is no shortage of words, just an absence of faith.

In Acts 12:5 we learn that "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church."  The Lord miraculously delivered Peter, who "came to the house of Mary...where many were gathered together praying."  When Peter knocked at the gate, a young girl named Rhoda came to answer and recognized Peter's voice.  She ran back into the house and announced the wonderful news that Peter was there.  They told her that she was crazy.  In reality she was the only one who believed that God had answered their prayer.  When they finally responded to Peter's persistent knocking and opened the door, they were astonished to see him.  This is a classic example of the prayer of unbelief.

James asked, "Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up."  James 5:14, 15.  These two verses are among the most misunderstood and abused Scriptures in the Bible.  The Roman Catholic church bases their sacrament of extreme unction on this passage.  The dying are anointed for death.  According to James, the sick are anointed for healing.  Most Protestant churches ignore these verses completely.  Very few churches practice what James taught.  Why is that?  The answer can be given in one word...unbelief.

In Mark 9:14-29 we have the story of the healing of a young boy, who was demon possessed.  Jesus' disciples were powerless to help.  Jesus responded, saying, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I hear you?"  Then Jesus said to the father of the boy, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."

One final verse.  "And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."  Matthew 21:22.  Let's believe God.

 

Principles of Prayer - REVIEW QUESTIONS

 
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